Discussing law with Strathmore Law Clinic President, Abdulmalik Adan.
Lawyers are invaluable as they assist people, groups and establishments with legal matters as well as playing their part in furthering the public good. Strathmore University is fortunate to have a prestigious law school which has an exciting combination of local and foreign legal scholars, advocates and legal experts who provide each student with the practical and analytical skills needed to transform society from within.
President of the Strathmore Law Clinic, Abdulmalik Adan, chose to start his Law journey here, in 2016, and the last four years have been nothing short of eventful. The Law Clinic is a student run initiative dedicated to furthering access to justice through the provision of free and accurate legal information to all members of the public. It provides students with an invaluable opportunity to learn practical skills such as developing projects, public speaking, engagement with stakeholders and other basic soft skills, and is a good experience to see first-hand, real life situations and how the law is applied in such scenarios. Mr Adan is a driven and results-oriented individual who does not shy away from a challenge. He is passionate about intellectual property law and its interface with information and communication technologies. His research interests include: social media law and regulation, enforcement of IP rights online and democratisation of social media.
Why not law? It’s the most dynamic course that I know of. I think it offers a very foundational basis and it opens your mind up to how things work. In the practice of law, one finds themselves needing to understand other disciplines in order to sufficiently represent their clients or advise on policy. Law is a good foundation for a person who wants to retain the option to pursue other things. That’s how my mind works. I don’t like committing to something specific too early but prefer to be general, and law provided me with such an option.
Why the interest in the area of IT and intellectual property?
I like how contemporary it is. Very few people have the answer to current-day dilemmas, how they are developing and how we will improve on our old systems to cater for the new changes we are experiencing. This fits in with my personality of being open to challenges and seeking solutions to these predicaments. I feel our law system is not there yet in this area. I would like to contribute to this, to help with the shift from analogue to digital and to help more people understand how technology works. It’s easy to be manipulated or taken advantage of if you don’t understand it or adequately regulate it. That being said, technology will always outstrip the law in terms of development.
Tell us about the law clinic.
Law clinics are a trend that started in the US where bodies of students take on cases pro bono or are directed to conduct research on ongoing cases based on grant funding or donations. These students do the research, draft legal briefs and even appear in court to represent people who are facing injustices and don’t have the means to put up a fight. US law permits this to happen because students are under their lecturer’s practise license. In Kenya there is no provision for that. We asked ourselves how we could bridge the gap of access to justice bearing in mind the constraints we face. We opted to start an organisation that would be geared towards filling that information gap for people. Our goal is to promote access to justice by providing accurate information to all, regardless of one’s background, at no cost. We do this in two ways, outreach and advocacy.
Could you tell us about some of the work the law clinic has done?
One outreach programme to note is the Sheria Mashinani programme. In collaboration with Crime Si Poa, we decided to create an on the ground network of people who will be facilitating our outreach programs in Kibera. We recruited about 40 youth leaders from Kibera and brought them to Strathmore for about 13 weeks. We developed a whole manual and went through it, training them on the law of business associations, human rights, labour laws etc. Facilitators from the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights and other NGO’S were present during the training and have since then partnered with us. They have now gone back to their communities and conducted outreach sessions themselves. In October we shall hopefully graduate them and from next year they will form part of our network who can aid us with our programs in Kibera.
Tell us about the application process?
Recruitment takes place in January and law students from first year through to third year. We look for students who have exhibited a general interest in putting themselves out there with this type of work as it is not easy. The first round consists of a short component where people explain why they want to join the clinic, then we conduct group interviews based on the three units around thematic areas namely; human rights unit, the criminal justice unit and the entrepreneurship unit. People apply to the unit they are interested in. Once the group interviews are completed, the leaders of the clinic at the time will then sift through the interviewees and grade them. It is quite a competitive process as slots are limited but each class is allocated a quota, and the selection of students to fill that quota is based on the grades awarded during the interviews.
What would you say are some of the benefits of being a part of this organization?
Being a part of the Law Clinic offers one career advancement opportunities as the practical approach we take is desirable for many employers. We have partner organisations who have expressed an interest in offering opportunities to Clinicians. Being a part of something like this helps one set themselves apart. Aside from this, it opens up a person’s mind to how they can do more good for themselves. People who have been a part of the clinic have learned valuable skills and gained much needed experience all while creating a strong network. Every day I work with people in the clinic and I am constantly getting amazed at the barriers being pushed and the willingness and hard work people are putting into this clinic.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank the faculty director of the clinic, Emma Senge, for being such a great support system for us, and to thank Strathmore for this opportunity. It isn’t every day you get to be a part of an organization such as the clinic. This has been a defining experience for me in my law school journey; being a part of something that creates an impact and the potential to change things in society.
This article was written by Stephen Mariru
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